Federal Manager's Daily Report

Federal agencies often have a different view of direct hire authority than OPM, the MSPB has said, raising the question of whether it “should only be used for reasons of speed or scarcity or whether quality should also be a factor. This is a critical question facing Government policymakers.”

In a newsletter article, the MSPB added observations to its recent white paper finding growing use of direct hire authorities in place of standard competitive service hiring procedures, growth that it said “appears to demonstrate an underlying frustration with current competitive hiring procedures.”

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The authority at issue, called the §3304 authority for where it is found in Title 5 of the U.S. Code, can be used based on a determination that there are critical hiring needs or a severe shortage of candidates. Under direct hire, agencies need to determine only whether an applicant is qualified for the position, and are to hire those qualified in the order their applications were received.

The article focuses on one point mentioned in the earlier analysis, that candidates are not to be formally ranked after a determination that they are qualified, reflecting OPM’s emphasis that the authority is to be used to fill positions more quickly.

Said MSPB, “agency responses to our inquiries seem to indicate that reaching high-quality candidates is an important goal when using §3304 DHA. Many agencies reported expanding recruitment efforts, implementing additional assessments, and doing more to draw distinctions among applicants.”

“This suggests that agency satisfaction with §3304 DHA derives from, at least in part, a perceived ability to hire better-qualified candidates—not just the ability to hire qualified applicants quickly. So it appears that OPM and agencies may have different views of how to use §3304 DHA and its place among hiring flexibilities,” it said.

It said the need to resolve such differences is a further argument for a reform of hiring practices that could address “what outcomes can reasonably be expected” from direct hire given that it “could become the primary means of hiring in some occupations or organizations.”

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